22 Jun 2016

Tiny wasp introduced to kill crop-devastating pest

3:15 pm on 22 June 2016

The Environmental Protection Authority has given the green light for the introduction of a wasp to control the tomato-potato psyllid.

The Environmental Protection Authority has given the green-light for the introduction of the tamarixia wasp to control of the insect, the tomato-potato psyllid.

The tiny wasp, tamarixia, is found in Mexico and the United States. Photo: SUPPLIED / Environmental Protection Authority

Horticulture New Zealand will now release the tiny tamarixia wasp. It lays its eggs on the psyllid - which then hatch and eat the pest insect.

Chief executive Mike Chapman said using the wasp as a biocontrol agent would result in significant cost-control savings, and also improve crop production volumes and quality.

He said the psyllid could devastate not only potatoes and tomatoes, but also capsicum and tamarillo crops.

"What it does is transport a bacteria and the bacteria in effect kills the plant.

"And if it doesn't kill the plant, [in] potatoes for example, it creates discolouring inside the potato itself, so it makes it unsaleable.

"It's been in New Zealand since 2006 and the control using the wasp has been carefully developed to ensure that, with research, it will not threaten any native psyllid."

The wasp is found in the US and Mexico as a naturally occurring parasitoid of the tomato-potato psyllid. It will be released first in the Auckland area.

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